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We’ve suffered enough terrorist attacks and assassinations to take chances, govt tells Rwanda

"As a country that has been subject of terror attacks with the assassination of Muslim sheikhs, State Attorney Joan Kagezi, and Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga, and others, we remain vigilant," Sam Kutesa said.

SECURITY | Uganda government has responded to the raft of accusations from south-western neighbours Rwanda, saying it expects all visitors into the country [Uganda] to remain law-abiding.

In a statement, released Tuesday, Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa said visitors who act contrary to the law are dealt with in accordance with the law. “Anyone visiting Uganda, including Rwandans, have nothing to fear if they are law-abiding,” Kutesa said.

Diplomatic tensions between the two countries heightened at the weekend with Rwanda issuing an unusual travel advisory to its citizens — against travelling to Uganda unless absolutely necessary.

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“We have advised Rwandans not to go to Uganda because we cannot guarantee their security in Uganda. It’s been longstanding and so we are strongly advising those who do not have necessary business in Uganda not to (go there) until we can sort out this problem,” Dr Richard Sezibera, Rwanda’s foreign minister, said.

“We’ve seen incidents in the past, even yesterday we were seeing people arrested in Kisoro, in Mbarara (in southwestern and western Uganda) and we don’t understand what’s happening. Any sensible government (in this situation) would, of course, advise its citizens to be prudent about travelling there.”

However, Kutesa refuted the allegations, saying Uganda welcomes and maintains open-door policy for people of all nationalities. Explaining further, the minister drew from recent spates of assassination of high profile persons and Muslims sheikhs, as well as terror attacks on the country.

“As a country that has been subject of terror attacks with the assassination of Muslim sheikhs, State Attorney Joan Kagezi, and Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga, and others, we remain vigilant,” he said.

Kagezi (2015), Maj Muhammad Kiggundu (2016), AIGP Felix Kaweesi (2017), and Abiriga and ASP Mohammed Kirumira (2018) were all shot dead in Kampala by assailants travelling on boda boda. No suspect has been convicted for the murders, but authorities have in custody Muslim suspects for each of the assassinations.

As well as the officials, at least ten high profile Muslim sheikhs have been gunned down across the country over the last eight years. Again, Muslim suspects were arrested over the killings.

In July 2010, al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab terrorists claimed responsibility for the twin attack on World Cup final viewers in Kampala that killed at least 85 people and maimed dozens more.

“In this regard, the Government of Uganda remains committed to protecting the security of its citizens and its borders and will act accordingly against local and foreign threats,” Kutesa said.

Harbouring rebels

On Friday, Sezibera told Rwanda’s The New Times newspaper that his government has variously raised concerns that Uganda is harbouring “armed groups, individuals who head armed groups that are opposed to the Government of Rwanda, that have a violent agenda toward Rwanda.”

In another major accusation, he claimed that rebels extradited to Rwanda from DR Congo had confessed to being facilitated by a number of actors within Uganda and Burundi, adding that the UN Group of Experts has also pointed it out.

“I am talking about individuals, some of who are in positions of responsibility in those governments,” Sezibera said.

In January, Sezibera’s deputy tweeted following the expulsion of Annie Tabura, a former MTN Uganda top executive over allegation of spying on Uganda, saying: “Apparently, walking and working in Uganda while Rwandan have become a crime. The only activities allowed for Rwandans in Uganda seem to be plotting against their country, training forces for the RNC/P5 [a Rwandan rebel group based in eastern DR Congo] and denouncing fellow Rwandans.”

But Kutesa refuted the strong allegations, saying Uganda does not host any [rebel] elements fighting its neighbours.

“Rwanda knows this very well as it has been a matter of confidential communication at the highest level of the two countries,” Kutesa said. “Uganda does not and cannot allow anyone to operate from its territory that threatens a neighbour as alleged. This is a principled position.”

The country’s top diplomat said the government appreciates that development in the country cannot take place with peace and security in the region, adding that it is for this reason that Uganda continues to champion close collaboration and coordination within the framework of regional blocs.

He said it was unfortunate that movement of persons and goods and services had been restricted at the border with Rwanda and pledged the government’s commitment to address the issue “because we are convinced that doing so strengthens our integration.”

There have been reports that Rwanda had blocked its borders with Uganda and was restricting movement of Rwandans to the country to the extent of slapping fines of buses found transporting Rwandans to Uganda.

Kutesa said Uganda is a vocal advocate for regional integration and building closer connectivity in trade with Rwanda “because it is essential for our common prosperity.”

But Rwanda insists all other borders except Gatuna was open. Sezibera said there was ongoing construction works on the highway that restricts the road to only light vehicles. He asked that such vehicles can make use of other border points such as Kagitumba and Cyanika.

Crime24 understands that the border blockade was triggered following intel report to Kigali that Rwandan rebels were training and recruiting from Uganda. Rwanda moved to check this by restricting movement of its citizens to Uganda for fear they they could be enlisting into the suspected rebel ranks.

“The crux of the border matter is that Kigali got intel, that it holds credible, that RNC rebels were training in Uganda and that they were recruiting Rwandans into their activity,” a source said.

Kutesa did not commit himself on whether there are ongoing efforts to end the diplomatic fallout amicably besides mentioning of the confidential correspondence at the highest level that does not appear to have much impact given that even on today [Tuesday] morning, Sezibera fielded questions from the media in a live televised interview during which he reiterated Rwanda’s accusations against Uganda.

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